Friday, January 30, 2009

Are you ready to rock?

Guitar World's 50 Greatest Guitar Solos (linked right to the top 10). A very complete list with which I find few issues. Those dudes at GW know their stuff. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bowden, Paterno set for another old-off

Coach Bobby Bowden, 79, signed a one-year contract Wednesday, assuring he'll return for his 34th season at Florida State. His deal is worth $2.5 million and he has an option for 2010.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 82, recently signed a three-year extension that runs through 2011.

Bowden’s 382 career wins are one fewer than Paterno, the all-time leader among major college coaches.

Who will end up the career wins leader? Will one of these legendary coaches actually have to die on the sideline before he calls it quits? The odds of that are looking more and more likely.

Avetts touring with DMB

The Avett Brothers, a bluegrass rock band, are playing eight dates on Dave Matthews Band's spring tour. Tickets went on sale last week.

DMB can do its share of rocking, but I predict the Avetts will blow those hippies off the stage. Seriously, if you have not heard these guys, start now. Like, right here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

That would be so Boss

Bruce Springsteen will perform musical arrangements during halftime of Sunday's Super Bowl XLIII football game between the Cardinals of Arizona and the Steelers of Pittsburgh.

Do you think he'll play "Dancing in the Dark" and pull a random girl up on stage to dance with him? Might that girl be Courteney Cox? Just think of the magic they could recreate.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What is wrong with America?!

The election of Barack Obama made me think change was a-comin'. Maybe our country was ready to make a stand for what is good and right in the world. For the second week in a row at the box office, it's clear we still have a long way to go.

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" was the top-grossing movie this weekend, taking the No. 1 spot for the second straight week.

Seriously?!? Granted, it didn't have a ton of new-release competition. But it has grossed $65 million in 10 days.

Now, you'll have to excuse me. I'm going to go throw up.

Review: Frost/Nixon

Rating: Highly recommend
Analogy: "Good Night and Good Luck" meets "All the President's Men"
Synopsis (from Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard brings to the screen writer Peter Morgan's ("The Queen," "The Last King of Scotland") electrifying battle between Richard Nixon, the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost, a jet-setting television personality with a name to make, in the untold story of the historic encounter that changed both.
Soundtrack: Yes, musical score by Hans Zimmer ("Gladiator," "Rain Main").

Review: It's a rare type of thriller that, despite a lack of "action," captivates the audience from start to finish.

As in all great movies, the captivating pull comes from several sources: the subject matter (which, as a journalist, perhaps intrigues me more than your average Joe), the film-making methods and the acting performances.

Frank Langella and Michael Sheen reprise their respective roles as Richard Nixon and David Frost from the stage production of "Frost/Nixon." Langella won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Tricky Dick on Broadway and now is nominated for an Academy Award for his work in the film -- and deservedly so.

Entering the film, most people already have an opinion about Richard Nixon and his disgraceful exit from the White House. But Langella's Nixon is not just a caricature of the man. He is not merely a good Nixon impressionist; he is the man. A real man, as believable a performance as you'll see at the movies this year.

Several times throughout the film, which is presented as a pseudo-documentary, the Frost/Nixon interviews are compared to a boxing match. The wily veteran champion vs. the optimistic contender. "No holds barred," is how Nixon puts it. Well said, Mr. President.

Konichiwa, Harry Potter

This is a few days old, but I've been lazy, so deal with it.

Trailer Addict has the Japanese "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" trailer, which, aside from having a Japanese voice over and captions, is completely different than the U.S.-released trailer.

Have I mentioned that I'm stoked about this movie? I know, I know. Big dork.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nobody puts Baby in the corner

Saw a commercial today for The Dirty Dancing Official Dance Workout. (Tagline: Get fit and have the time of your life!)


Let's see. "Dirty Dancing" came out in 1987. I wonder what the delay was? After reading the DVD's description, I'm oddly tempted to spend the $12.98 plus s+h. Check it:

Get your dancing shoes on and step out with this exclusive dance workout inspired by the #1 dance movie of all time, DIRTY DANCING! Now you can learn to move like Baby and Johnny with original dance steps and soundtrack favorites from the legendary movie. Have the time of your life and get fit to Johnny's Mambo, Penny's Grapevine and so much more! What are you waiting for? Get out of the corner, baby, and dance!
I also believe this is more proof that Patrick Swayze, despite his illness, is having a helluva 2009. First, the Barbara Walters interview, then a new TV show called "The Beast," and now he apparently has a book deal in the works. Like I've always said, the more Swayze, the better. "Pain don't hurt!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bathroom ballyhoo

Random list alert!

Some of my favorite movie scenes that took place in a bathroom. And, go:

The Matrix: Watching this movie over the weekend was the inspiration for this random list. The scene: Morpheus and Agent Smith tangle in a dilapidated bathroom. Do you remember the first time you saw this movie and it blew your freaking mind? I wish I could get that feeling back.

The Bourne Ultimatum: Jason Bourne kills a trained assassin with a hand towel. The look on Julia Stiles' face when she walks into the bathroom after Matt Damon has strangled that dude is just priceless.

Witness: Poor little Amish Samuel, in the big city train station, sees some crazy stuff go down through the crack in the bathroom stall. Tension is high as he dodges the dirty cop to escape. This movie totally holds up 25 years later.

The Karate Kid: Daniel rigs a hose in the boys' room to soak Johnny while he's in the can and rocking out to his Walkman, thus unleashing the wrath of the skeleton costume-clad Cobra Kai. Beware of Zabka!

Out of Sight: Perhaps the sexiest dream sequence in cinema history, a fully-clothed and gun-toting Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez, before she was JLo) climbs into the bathtub with con man Jack Foley (George Clooney). Quite steamy -- pun intended. Hey-oh!

A League of Their Own: A drunk Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) bursts into the locker room and proceeds to take one of the longest pisses in recorded history. To quote All the Way Mae (Madonna, in her finest acting role), "That was some peeing!"

Update: I Love You, Man

So, turns out "I Love You, Man," starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, doesn't actually come out until March 20. The previous release date mentioned in this space (Jan. 19) was its freaking Sundance debut. Thanks, IMDB, for getting our hopes up. Jerks.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight

Comedy Central is conducting its annual Standup Showdown online voting extravaganza through Friday. The top 20 comics will be featured in a standup marathon on Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. You can vote once a day online or you can text an unlimited number of votes.

Who should you vote for? Here, a few of my favorite standups in the showdown (in alphabetical order, with some of their classic lines):

Doug Benson: "Did you hear Britney Spears is getting back together?"

Mike Birbiglia: "Me and my cracker friends were driving down the street in my Volvo station wagon, and I said, 'Hey, cracker, pass the Sunchips.' And he says, 'Not until we get to the picnic, cracker.' And I said, 'Cracker, please.' And he's like, 'Cracker, what?!?' "

Kyle Cease: "The only way they could've made the original Nintendo better is if it worked. You'd be blowing into that thing all day. And only you could fix your own Nintendo."

Jim Gaffigan: "There's no reason to get a Cinnabon. 'Uh, I'm about to get on a plane. How about 8 pounds of cake?' "

Zach Galifianakis: "Did you see that Lifetime movie about that woman?"

Mitch Hedberg: "I got an ant farm. Them fellas didn't grow shit."

Demetri Martin: "I think Employee of the Month is a good example of when a person can be a winner and a loser at the same time."

Patton Oswalt: "It was gayer than eight guys blowing nine guys."

Brian Regan: "When I played Little League, all I cared about was getting a free snow cone. ... 'Brian, what's the score?' 'FREE SNOW CONE!' "

The Sklar Brothers: "In every city, there's a classic rock radio station with a show called the Crazy Morning Zoo. That's the most failed premise. When you think about it, zoos are the most fucking controlled environment on the planet."

Nick Swardson: "My cat got sick. She had diarrhea. I took her to the vet, and he asked me, 'What have you been feeding her?' and I said, 'Diarrhea.' "

Daniel Tosh: "Women get plastic surgery to make their outsides match their insides: Fake."

FYI, if you vote for Carlos Mencia, it means we can never be friends.

Inauguration on the treadmill

I watched Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony and speech while running on the treadmill at the gym. One thing this allowed me to do was to see the coverage of the historic event on three different news stations simultaneously on the giant TVs in the cardio area. Observations:

ABC chose not to do a crawl or any other words on the screen during Obama's speech, Aretha Franklin's performance (side note: what was up with that hat?) or the super-group of orchestra titans' arrangement.

Fox News also did not have a crawl or other words on the screen and cut to G.W. Bush at least three times during Obama's speech.

Headline News, however, had a crawl and random headlines about Obama during the whole thing. Immediately following the speech, HLN cut to several talking heads, barely acknowledging the musical performances and things going on.

I can't decide which was the "best" broadcast method, but it was interesting to see, nonetheless.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Get back to me when it's done

They're building a new badass roller coaster at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, called the Diamondback. Description:

The Diamondback will be the tallest, fastest and meanest roller coaster at Kings Island.  The ride will stand 230 feet at its highest point with a first drop of 215 feet at a 74-degree angle and reach speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour. The ride features 10 vertical drops overall, including drops of 193, 131, 129, 110 and 106 feet,  two helixes -- one at 323 degrees and the other at 287 degrees -- and a spectacular splashdown ending. The ride experience on the Diamondback will last more than three heart-pounding minutes.

Sign me up! Huge fan of roller coasters. It will be completed for the park's opening day in April. Totally stoked.

One thing I'm not stoked about? Looking at the photo gallery of the coaster's construction. Seriously, all I can think about is one of these dudes not putting a screw or bolt in the right place and bodies flying all over the park as the ride hurtles into one of the helixes. And yet, I still cannot wait to check out this ride. What's up with that? 

TV passions return

No, I'm not talking about the bizarre-o NBC soap "Passions." (Though, truly, that show was awesome. So bad it was good. But I digress.)

Starting today and for the next seven days, four of my favorite TV shows start up new episodes again. "The Office" is back from Christmas vacation tonight; "Friday Night Lights" returns to NBC on, er, Friday night (granted, the 13-episode season has already run on DirecTV, but I don't have DirecTV, so I don't want to argue about technicalities), and "Flight of the Conchords" season 2 premieres Sunday night on HBO.

And then, the one we've all been waiting for, "Lost," kicks back into gear Wednesday on ABC in a return to its original time slot. Oh, "Lost," how we've missed you. Don't effing disappoint us, OK?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mustache animation? Yes, please

The latest promo for "Coraline," from "Nightmare Before Christmas" director Henry Selick, displays a taste of the stop-motion animation to be featured in the film. Except that it's animation of the art director's spectacular handlebar mustache. After watching this promo, I have no idea what this movie is about, but does it really matter?

Hit it, Run!

This year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were announced, and Run-D.M.C. got the call. About time. Although they'll only be the second hip-hop artist to enter the Hall (after Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in 2007), Run-D.M.C. arguably had more of an impact on the music world -- and beyond -- than any other group in the last 25 years.

This also gives me a chance to post one of my favorite songs/music videos. Behold, the genius of "It's Like That."

The other 2009 inductees, if you care, are Metallica, Jeff Beck, Bobby Womack and Little Anthony & the Imperials. Still mad at Metallica for making my illegal music downloads, well, even more illegal. Intellectual property rights, schmintellectual property rights. Jerks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What, no Hot Carl movie?

Here's the trailer for "Donkey Punch," a thriller-horror-pretty-people-have-sex-and-get-effed-up-and-killed movie.

Clearly, this movie was not made in the U.S. (it's a British production that came out this summer in the UK and will be released here later this month). If it was, the film studio would never have the balls to actually call it "Donkey Punch." It would have been called something like, "Trouble at Sea" or "The Yacht Club."

More Rickey being Rickey

I think I could post an amusing Rickey Henderson quote and/or anecdote every day for the next five years and still not run out. And since everyone's still talking about Rickey because of his Baseball Hall of Fame election on Monday, here are a few of my favorites (from the AP):

Late in his career, Henderson was shopping around for a team who would take a chance on his aging legs, and called San Diego GM Kevin Towers, who signed Henderson twice, to see if the Padres had any interest. “This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey,’” Henderson said. “Rickey wants to play baseball.”

In 2007, Henderson, sitting in the stands at AT&T Park, caught a foul ball and refused to give it up to a nearby kid despite calls from his fellow spectators. “Everybody was asking me for the ball,” Henderson said. “I said, You’re not getting this ball. I always wanted to get a foul ball. This one’s going on a shelf at home.”

Did I mention that his induction speech is going to be the greatest ever?!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Favorite films of 2008

Admittedly, I didn't see as many movies this year as I have in the past, but I'll still give you a list of my fave five of 2008:

2. Slumdog Millionaire
3. The Dark Knight
4. Iron Man
5. Role Models

Note I: I didn't call this list "the best films of 2008." Clearly, "Role Models" isn't going to garner any Oscar attention or anything, but it made me laugh more than any other movie this year, so that has to count for something, right?

Note II: There are still a handful of movies that technically came out in 2008 that I have not seen yet, but I'm not sure when I'm going to get the chance.

Rickey's the best!

Rickey Henderson was voted into the the Baseball Hall of Fame today. In addition to being one of the greatest players ever, he will have the greatest induction speech of all time. I propose he even introduce himself because, hey, Rickey does what Rickey wants to do.

Here's comedian David Cross doing his best Rickey impression.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Zoom zoom, Michael Phelps

If Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps says you should buy a Mazda, then you should buy a Mazda. From the AP:

Michael Phelps is back where he made Olympic history. Don’t look for much swimming. This time, he’s in Beijing to do TV commercials for automaker Mazda, which is reported to be paying him more than $1 million to endorse the brand in China. It’s believed to be the largest single sponsorship deal for a foreign celebrity in the country.

Judging by Phelps' other quasi-acting stints -- his SNL hosting gig -- the Chinese should be thankful he cannot speak their language.

Oh wait, he used Rosetta Stone to learn Chinese before the Olympics, or so he claims in his ridiculously bad commercial. Well, crap. Sorry, Chinese. With any luck, he'll just stick to his strengths, i.e. standing around without a shirt on.

Dexter marries his sister

"Dexter" stars Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, who play siblings Dexter and Debra Morgan on the Showtime TV series, got married on New Year's Eve.

They only play adopted siblings on the show, though, so it's totally cool.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It Boggles the mind

My new game addiction is really an old game: Boggle.

Introducing my new favorite time-killer.

Give Michael C. Hall the Golden Globe, dammit!

"Dexter" is my newest TV obsession. I don't use the word obsession lightly, either. I am three episodes short of finishing Season 2 (hooray for Netflix!), and I don't think any show has ever kept me as emotionally involved. The premise alone is ridiculously intriguing: Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a serial killer who is governed by an ambiguous moral code and works for the Miami Metro Police Department as a blood spatter analyst.

Hall has made Dexter into the most complex of characters, at once gaining our sympathy, understanding and trust despite his often deranged dark side. He has made it possible to root for a serial killer with gruesome murder tools. Not that I always feel OK about those rooting efforts, which is just one moral conundrum on a show full of them.

And with all of these moral quandaries, it's no surprise that each episode requires a significant amount of emotional energy. It also has forever altered my view of procedural crime dramas. Rather than the usual "Law and Order" formula -- each episode involves one case that is wrapped up with a nice little bow at the end -- "Dexter" gives a more realistic depiction of how crime investigations play out, i.e. sometimes they take a long time to solve.

So, long story short, Michael C. Hall and "Dexter" deserve any and all awards that are available. Golden Globes, I'm looking at you.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

That sounds painful

Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has a torn groin tendon and is listed as doubtful for San Diego's playoff game at Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Torn. Groin. Tendon. Say those words aloud. Bleck. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

JoePa can't find his glasses

My glasses! My glasses! Where are my glasses?!

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is old and he lost his glasses. Big deal, right? Except that his Coke bottle-thick lenses didn't go missing while he was snoozing in his Craftmatic Adjustable Bed or while watching "Matlock." They were stolen off his face while he was wearing them -- well, sort of. From the AP:

Penn State police are looking out for Joe Paterno’s glasses – the bronzed ones that were perched on the statue of the iconic football coach that stands outside Beaver Stadium.

Vandals apparently cut the glasses off just above the base of the ears of the 7-foot sculpture between 11 a.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, when a police officer noticed the damage.

The school plans to replace the glasses, though assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson said it is unclear how much that might cost.

The statue, which weighs more than 900 pounds, was unveiled in Nov. 2001.

Oddly enough, the prescription in those bronzed lenses is actually less powerful than the ones JoePa wears during football games. True fact.

Bowflex just keeps on truckin'

Today I saw a commercial for Bowflex, and several thoughts came to mind.

I wonder how many Bowflex commercials I've seen in my lifetime? How long has that thing been around? And, if it has been turning enough profit to be in existence that long, why have I never met anyone who actually owns a Bowflex?

Turns out, the beloved Bowflex first came on the scene in 1986. That's some real endurance for a piece of exercise equipment primarily sold through cheesy infomercials.

On that note, let's look at a couple other exercise blasts from the past:

The Thigh Master: Sadly, we had one of these. I never once saw any member of my family use it, but I did use it one time: In eighth grade, I did an oral presentation on Suzanne Somers' book about child abuse, and I held it up as a cheap prop. And of course, I got an A.

Tae Bo: Remember that Billy Blanks guy? He was effing scary. Turns out he's still making it happen on the exercise scene. Who knew?

Cindy Crawford Workout: Pretty sure the only people who bought this were creepy dudes who, um, er, ah, well, ya know. Also, I have to admit I've never donned 5-inch wide hoop earrings while working out. Guess that why she's Cindy Crawford and I am not.

Fitness Made Simple: Oh, how I miss you, John Basedow. His freakishly tanned skin, monstrous pecs and feathery locks were a staple of late-night TV in Iowa. I have yet to see him grace my set since. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I just blue myself

The much-talked about "Arrested Development" movie is a go -- almost. Word on the street is that Michael Cera is the lone holdout. Has fame gone to George Michael's head? Maebe, Maebe not.

Will Arnett was believed to have been a holdout, too, but he seems to have come around. "I can't wait to strap that fake hand back on -- wait, which guy did I play?" Arnett told EW. "It'll be fun to get back together with everyone and work on it."

So, now the question is, what will the AD movie actually be about?

Fancast recently talked with series creator Mitch Hurwitz about these issues and other burning Bluth family questions.

Movies I'm stoked about for '09

As previously mentioned, I saw fewer movies in 2008 than I had in, well, maybe a decade? Here's hoping 2009 allows me to pick up the pace. That said, here are a few movies I'm stoked about seeing this year:

I Love You, Man (Jan. 16): A previous post already expressed my love of Paul Rudd. Looks to be a much-needed boost of comedy amid the usual January dreck and Oscar-bait films.

The Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience (Feb. 27): Yes, this one is a joke. Or is it?

The Watchmen (March 6, please, God, please!): Will this film even see the light of day in 2009? Fingers crossed that the legal battle between Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox gets resolved soon-ish so we can revel in its all-but-certain glory this spring.

Public Enemies (July 1): The word "badass" comes to mind. A cat-and-mouse thriller set in the Depression, directed by Michael Mann and starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. It has to be good, right?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 17): Still a little miffed they pushed back this release date eight friggin' months, but with any luck, the extra time will help make the movie that much better. The beauty of this HP book was how it balanced the teen themes (i.e. first loves, raging hormones and such) with the more-than-usual dose of heavy themes (good vs. evil, death and betrayal). Can't wait to see how it transfers to the big screen.

Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16): Spike Jonze has been in production of this adaptation of the classic children's tale since 2006. Hope it's worth the wait. Let's just say Jonze has never disappointed me before.

Inglorious Basterds (August-ish?): Quentin Tarantino's latest offering, starring Brad Pitt. Tarantino ventures into some new territory, tackling the story of a group of Jewish-American soldiers terrorizing the Third Reich in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. But one thing's for sure: copious amounts of violence will ensue. Nice.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

RATING: Recommend it
ANALOGY: "Big Fish" meets "Forrest Gump"
SYNOPSIS (from official site): "I was born under unusual circumstances." And so begins “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards. We follow his story set in New Orleans from the end of World War I in 1918, into the 21st century, following his journey that is as unusual as any man’s life can be. It is a time traveler’s tale of the people and places he bumps into along the way, the loves he loses and finds, the joys of life and the sadness of death, and what lasts beyond time.
SOUNDTRACK: Yes. Score by Alexandre Desplat. The first disc is the movie score, the second disc's tracks are lines from the movie and other non-score songs (i.e. "Dear Old Southland" by Louis Armstrong).

REVIEW: A beautifully crafted, if a bit long-winded, story of life, love and, more often than not, death.

Brad Pitt (Benjamin Button) turns in his most well-rounded performance, Cate Blanchett (Daisy) is lovely as usual, and Tilda Swinton (Elizabeth Abbott) is in top form. One of the film's true marvels is how realistically all of the characters age (or, in Pitt's case, get younger). Many hours in the makeup chair paid off.

I was not completely sold on the convention of a dying Daisy having her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) read to her from Benjamin's diary as Hurricane Katrina is approaching New Orleans. It was the only part of the film that felt cheesy, a bit contrived and overly sentimental. That said, the entire film easily could have veered into that realm. And in another director's hands, it may have turned into a sickenly bittersweet opus, but David Fincher ("Fight Club," "Zodiac") kept it grounded by mixing in the right dose of comic relief, visual effects and reality.

The film focuses on the repeating themes of growing old and death, which of course, go hand in hand for everyone. Well, everyone except Benjamin. All in all, it's a visually stunning tear-jerker that forces its audience to consider those touchy themes in a new light.